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With the Hubbard County Jail facing a deficit this year, sheriff’s budget projects $1M increase for 2023

The Hubbard County Jail is at full capacity. Instead of needing $6 million of levy dollars to operate the jail, County Administrator Jeff Cadwell said it now costs $7.1 million.

HubbardCountyLawEnforcementCenter2022.jpg
Hubbard County Law Enforcement Center
Enterprise file photo
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Hubbard County commissioners reviewed the county sheriff’s proposed budget for 2023, which involves a $1.15 million increase in the tax levy.

County Sheriff Cory Aukes said a large part of the budget increase – $650,000 – is due to high-priority needs, such as replacing radios and a computer record system upgrade.

“Our current radios are 11 years old,” he said, adding Motorola no longer supports nor repairs these models.

Wages went up roughly $360,000, “which is simply out of my control,” Aukes said.

“Those three projects alone add up to a lot of money, which takes up the bulk of the increase in our budget,” he continued, noting that he only asked for one additional daytime sergeant while eliminating three part-time positions, “so that’s a wash.”

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County Administrator Jeff Cadwell said, “We have identified using $460,000 of Enbridge captured money to offset the items” that the sheriff talked about.

The balance of the requested dollar increase, Cadwell continued, comes from two sources; a 3% increase in wages and the operating parameters at the jail.

“With the increase in occupancy in March, we added four additional staff. Those are not showing in the 2022 budget, so when you show 2023 against 2022 that looks like a big increase.”

Cadwell projected a $600,000 to $700,000 operational deficit “because of the change in operations at the jail.”

“Where will that money come from?” asked county commissioner Char Christenson.

“(General) fund balance, if it doesn’t come from other short uses,” Cadwell replied. “The other big piece of that is, with the increased occupancy at the jail, we’re not able to rent out spaces. Not only are we seeing an overage of expenses of $400,000, we’re seeing an underage in revenue of probably $150,000 to $200,000, so we have to pay for that this year and budget for it next year.”

Later in the meeting, Cadwell shared data that the jail saw actual revenue of $342,000 in 2021. In 2022, $345,000 in revenue was budgeted, but the county will actually see a shortfall of over $200,000 in revenues.

“We’re not going to make $150,000 if we’re fully occupied with our prisoners in there, so even that number needs to be adjusted,” he said.

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Instead of needing $6 million of levy dollars to operate the jail, Cadwell said it now costs $7.1 million.

Cadwell said a conversation is needed “about the service expectations and the staffing levels.”

“The fourth element of the budget is the administrative overhead that it takes to operate all those facilities,” he said.

Cadwell reiterated that the jail is currently at 80% capacity, which is considered full, and therefore, costs $600,000 to $700,000 more to operate each year.

“Obviously, as you all know, public safety has a cost to it,” Aukes replied. “Hubbard County is a busy county. We truly are.”

He argued that the public is better off when people are held accountable and kept in jail. He also doesn’t foresee the jail population going down.

Reducing jail staff isn’t an option either, Aukes said. “The Department of Corrections mandates minimum number of staffing levels.”

Adjusting the number of deputies “means the citizens would have to wait longer” for a response.

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“I promise you that we are not fat, as far as how many people we have on. We’ve never done that,” Aukes said.

Christenson asked if purchases could be made over the course of two years. Aukes replied that half of the radios could be bought in one year, the remainder in the next.

Deputy Sheriff Scott Parks said the computer records software will be purchased with a lot of restricted funds, not all levy dollars.

Cadwell said he plans to have a tax impact report for the county board’s Sept. 13 work session.

“What we’re asking for right now is a 10% operating increase, primarily for law enforcement and social services, and 10% to capture the $1.6 million dollars for future use in next year and subsequent years from the Enbridge tax capacity,” Cadwell explained.

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Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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